Gray Box Penetration Testing: Overview



Editor’s note: Being a combination of black box and white box penetration testing, the gray box penetration method can be an invaluable tool for verifying security of software and IT infrastructure. But what exactly does the “gray” part mean? In this article, we are going to uncover the essence of gray box penetration testing and its benefits, as well as explain how to perform efficient gray box penetration testing in your company.

If you need assistance in verifying the level of your cyber defense or reinforcing existing security controls, don’t hesitate to check out ScienceSoft’s penetration testing services.

Gray Box

Gray box penetration testing, also known as translucent testing, imitates a hacker’s actions to find and exploit potential vulnerabilities with partial knowledge of or access to an internal network or application.

There is no particular rule on what testers must know or have access to when they attempt their mock attacks. In most testing scenarios, gray box penetration tests require very little information. To hack a web application, it may be enough to know the target URL and certain credentials. If pentesters intend to simulate an attack executed after breaking security perimeter, they may need access to software code and system architectural diagrams.

Gray box penetration testing is beneficial in a number of ways:

  • It offers the combined benefits of white box and black box penetration testing by providing both the end-user’s and developer’s perspective.
  • The knowledge of the target system helps the tester to design more comprehensive test scenarios than in the black box method, as well as uncover more significant vulnerabilities with less effort.
  • Even with a partial understanding of an IT infrastructure or an application’s code, the tester acts like a real hacker. This places the testing process in a more true-to-life environment, as compared to the white box approach.
  • In most cases, pentesters do not need to have extensive programming skills to efficiently perform gray box pentesting.

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Gray box penetration testing is typically carried out in four steps:

1. Planning phase

The pentesting team analyzes the client’s requirements to clearly define the goals and scope of testing. The pentesters study the testing targets and decide what information they need to achieve the testing goals.

2. Discovery phase

The pentesters study the network or the application structure and define security gaps that can serve as access points. They may also apply social engineering to trick employees into revealing additional information that can be used for further attacks.

3. Attack phase

The pentesters exploit detected vulnerabilities to figure out most probable scenarios of potential cyberattacks by insiders or hackers who have already managed to penetrate the security perimeter.

4. Reporting phase

The final step is to create a report describing testing targets, tools, attacks, and detected vulnerabilities prioritized by severity as well as evaluating the overall security level. The report also contains corrective measures for each security gap.

Secure your system with gray box penetration testing

Combining the advantages of black box and white box testing approaches, gray box penetration testing strikes a balance between the depth and efficiency. It is particularly useful for simulating either an insider threat or actions of an external attacker who has gained access to the system.

If you need expert help with gray box testing for your IT system or software, you are welcome to contact us.

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